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Lawmakers denounce ‘You lie’ outburst at Obama

Liz De La Torre

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From The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Democrats and Republicans alike are denouncing Rep. Joe Wilson for shouting “You lie” at President Barack Obama during his speech to Congress, an extraordinary breach of decorum for which the South Carolina Republican swiftly apologized.

“I was embarrassed for the chamber and a Congress I love,” Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “It demeaned the institution.”

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., told ABC on Wednesday: “Obviously, the President of the United States is always welcome on Capitol Hill. He deserves respect and decorum.

“I know that Congressman Wilson has issued an apology and made his thoughts known to the White House, which was the appropriate thing to do,” Cantor said.

The House’s guest chaplain, in the opening prayer for Thursday’s session, also appeared to refer to Wilson’s outburst. “Gracious God, we meet in a challenging moment of your history. We cannot control all that may endanger us, but we can choose our behavior and the example we set as leaders,” said The Very Rev. George L.W. Werner, dean emeritus of Trinity Cathedral in Pittsburgh.

Wilson’s outburst came after Obama said extending health care to all Americans who seek it would not mean insuring illegal immigrants.

“You lie!” Wilson shouted from his seat on the Republican side of the chamber.

After the speech, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, “There’ll be time enough to consider whether or not we ought to make it clear that that action is unacceptable in the House of Representatives.”

“Let’s see what he does,” Hoyer told WTOP radio before Wilson issued an apology. “Then there’s time enough to consider further action.”

There seemed little enthusiasm for sanctioning him, however.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said when asked about this Thursday: “It’s time for us to talk about health care, not Mr. Wilson.”

Wilson’s behavior caused a political hangover for him and possibly for the Republican critics Obama had cast as shrill and more interested in killing any health care overhaul than finding a way to compromise.

Later, Wilson was contrite.

“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me,” he said in a statement. “While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”

He then tried to call Obama to apologize personally, but ended up talking with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel instead, Wilson’s office said.

Biden said Thursday that he hadn’t spoken with Obama, but, “knowing the president, I’m sure he accepted the apology.”

By late Wednesday, though, the congressman’s Web site had crashed, he had taken a beating on his Twitter page and Democrat Rob Miller had raised thousands of unexpected dollars online for a possible rematch with Wilson in next year’s midterm elections, according to Lachlan McIntosh, Miller’s campaign manager.

Within eight hours of Wilson’s outburst, his Democratic opponent, former-Marine Rob Miller, had received nearly 3,000 individual contributions raising approximately $100,000, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said.

Wilson, a conservative Republican who promotes a strong national defense and reining in the size of government, won a special election to the House in 2001, succeeding the late Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C. Wilson had worked on Spence’s staff on Capitol Hill and also had served as an intern for Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C.

Wilson, the only Republican who serves on both the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, is a familiar face on the floor of the chamber, often going there after regular legislative business to make announcements, observations and political points in the so-called “one minutes,” a special freewheeling speaking period.

Wilson has been a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq.

“Everybody was stunned,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said of Wilson’s eruption.

Republicans froze; several glanced in Wilson’s direction.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a fierce frown at him; first lady Michelle Obama pursed her lips and shook her head from side to side.

Obama, meanwhile, looked toward the outburst and replied, “That’s not true” before going on with his speech.

Wilson appeared to consult his Blackberry for much of the rest of Obama’s speech. He shook his head defiantly after several of the president’s statements. When Obama finished, Wilson bolted from the chamber.

Wilson’s behavior was “totally disrespectful,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had been Obama’s rival in the 2008 presidential election, said on CNN.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
Lawmakers denounce ‘You lie’ outburst at Obama